The Prodigy

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Chapter 37

When Josh and I arrive at the martial arts studio, Kevin is sparring with another black belt. Kevin is actually very good, which doesn’t surprise me. When Kevin sets out to master a task, he has laser-like focus. It accounts for much of his success. Josh and I sit down to watch him while we mentally start preparing ourselves for whatever may come. Seeing him with another black belt gives me a newfound appreciation of his skills. After twenty minutes, Luis arrives and signals Kevin to finish up.

“Are you two ready?” I nod my head while Josh shrugs his shoulders. Luis studies us for a minute but holds off saying anything. “The weather should hold up for us. We’ll leave in five minutes.” Luis walks over to the sensei and talks with him. The sensei signals Kevin and his partner to stop. Kevin hurries over to me and asks how I liked the performance. After I praise him effusively, he takes off to change and I pull out my last minute notes. I had Kevin instruct me on how to get into the power grid. Meanwhile Luis pulls Josh aside.

“Is Analia up for this?”

“I think so. Why?”

“Before my first mission I vomited several times. The thing is, when I go on missions, I am worried about my teammates. But, I always have my loved ones waiting at home. Everyone Analia loves is at risk tonight. No matter what happens, you need to survive and stay close to her if this goes south.”

“I have been thinking about that. I am worried she could lose both her parents tonight. She has had enough loss in her life.”

“Just concentrate on getting her out. Let me cover the others. Have you thought about your future?”

“What do you mean?”

“I think that we will be successful on shining a light on the eugenics policies and the human rights violations at Rosewood, no matter how tonight goes. Having said that, it is likely your father will be targeted in a criminal investigation along with your mother. You will likely be needed to testify on your father’s behalf against your mother. Will you be able to do that?”

“I would prefer not being the one who puts my mother in jail, but if it comes to choosing between the two of them, I will do anything to save dad. Let’s discuss this at a later date. Let’s get through tonight first. Do you have the satellite phone?”

“It is in the police van with the driver. I don’t want it getting into the wrong hands tonight.” He looks up and sees Kevin emerging from the locker room. “We should leave now. It’s better if we have extra time.”

We get into a van with a heating and contracting advertisement on its’ side panel. Luis instructs us to stay low in the back of the van when we go through tolls. He talks to us in a low controlled voice all the way up. Several times, he repeats what is about to transpire in a hypnotic voice. I think he is employing a cognitive behavioral technique to redirect our thoughts. I suspect this is his pre-mission routine. His voice and his actions are working. I feel preternaturally calm.

We arrive almost an hour early and park under a makeshift hideout Luis had constructed out of trees and branches. One of his men is waiting for us in night camouflage. Luis refers to him in code as Fox One. Fox One reports that the area has been quiet with only an occasional passing car. Fox One wipes down the van with ruthless efficiency as Luis sets up a scrambling device attached to the computer in the van that Kevin is about to use. It will scramble the wireless signal Kevin will be using. After a half hour, mom arrives with Jax behind her.

Jax speaks first. “She convinced me to come.”

“I talked him into leaving with us tonight. I am convinced Halliday and Lucas would crucify him. There is no way he could conduct the media campaign. We have to rely on Luis for that and whatever we can to do manage down in Brazil. I sent the backup drives to Luis’s man in Brazil this morning. Are we ready to go?”

“I am waiting for the signal from Ziva. Once Kevin is in the power grid, it all depends on the nurse getting those detainees out. We should cross the river now. If it happens it will be in the next half hour. Everyone should wear masks and gloves from this point on. We won’t have time to wipe down the boat later on. Once we cross over, no talking. Jax, I need you to go to the police van with Fox One. You may have to create a diversion if this operation goes south.”

Jax protests. “Shouldn’t I go with you?”

“No. The backup plan is just as important. I need to keep Josh, Analia and Kevin together. You are the only one who can do it.”

“Fair enough. Stay safe you guys.” Jax stares at Mom for a minute and then leaves with Fox One on foot along the embankment.

The next twenty minutes pass in an agonizing silence. Josh steers the boat with no lights as Kevin works on the computer. I talk quietly with my mother and go over the various scenarios that can transpire and how to react to them. Meanwhile Luis keeps checking in with the members of his team who are scattered throughout the area. When we start to approach the coastline, Luis signals us to be quiet. We reach the other side of the river and Josh shuts down the motor about ten feet from shore. It is so quiet that I only hear a few crickets and the sound of my mother’s breathing. The minutes pass like coffee sludge sliding down the sides of a percolator.

All of a sudden, Luis hurries over to Kevin and whispers to him to shut down the power grid. “They are leaving as soon as the blackout occurs.”

Josh asks. “How long until we should see them?”

“If they are jogging at a moderate clip, it should be twelve to fourteen minutes. We timed it multiple times with Ziva on mock runs. At nine minutes, start the engine Josh and be ready to go.”

“Are your men coming on the boat with us?”

“Two of them are. Plus the nurse and the third detainee. My other men know how to disappear. I can’t risk losing my whole team if we are all taken. Plus they will be our backup.”

“What about the service van we came in?”

“I am sending that back towards Westchester as the diversion. Two members of the underground who live in Armonk are acting as decoys. Here, take your gun. Hopefully it won’t be necessary. “

Josh takes the gun wordlessly. He watches as mom and I are handed our guns. Both of our faces are blank as if we are acting in automation. We wait in silence for a sign of Ziva and the escapees. Kevin is sitting at the back of the boat staring into the woods with the computer on his lap. Luis whispers into Kevin’s ear and Kevin goes and sits in the front with Josh.

All of a sudden, there is the rustle of leaves in the distance. Luis signals Josh to start the motor. Luis holds up a night vision scope and scans the horizon. Visibility is limited to moonlight.

A minute later, a voice comes over Luis’s radio. “We have trouble!”

Luis turns to Josh. “Be ready to floor it.” He jumps off the boat into the water, runs in a crouched stance and takes his position along the shoreline. Mom tells me to stay on the boat and jumps over and follows Luis. Josh grabs my arm and drags me to the stern.

“I need to help my mother.”

“Analia, please stay here. Things could go bad real fast. Luis and your mother planned this.”

“What!”

“I’ll explain later.”

A flash bang stops us cold. I now know what real fear is. Frigid, clammy sweat is trickling down the back of my neck. In the distance we see a woman and a man in a green jumpsuit running towards our boat. Their faces are indistinct. All of a sudden several more gunshots are heard. I holster my gun, run and jump into the water before Josh can stop me.

As the first two escapees emerge, they start yelling at Luis. “It is a trap. They knew something was going down tonight.”

“What do you mean a trap?” Luis addresses the unknown woman that I assume is the nurse

“They knew something was happening tonight. I don’t think they knew about my involvement or the blackout. It is the only reason we got out at all.”

Luis yells over to Josh. “Dump all phones and anything that could hold a GPS chip. Just not the satellite phone or Kevin’s computer.”

“Where are the others?” Mom and I ask the nurse almost simultaneously.

“Matt is sick. Brad and Ziva are helping him. Another man in camouflage came out in the woods to help.” The nurse takes a large gulp of air and looks at Luis. “I assume it is one of your guys who is helping. All of a sudden, another man in a green jumpsuit stumbles and rolls towards us. I help him to his feet.

“Brad, where are Ziva and Matt? Mom asks.

He blurts out. “They’re coming, but a number of guards are close behind. Ziva sent me ahead to ask for backup assistance. The soldier assisting us is trying to create a diversion.” Luis gets on the radio and signals to one of his men to assist if possible.

Luis looks at the nurse and the mystery detainee. “Get on the boat now and lie flat on the ground. You too Brad.” I help the three of them get into the boat. I notice a metal deflector has been fitted around the motor.

All of a sudden we hear screams for help. I see a woman who must be Ziva dragging a man with her. Mom runs to them with Luis on her heels. Luis throws a radio at Josh and yells at him to keep me there. Josh immediately jumps overboard and grabs me by the arm.

“Stay here Analia. They will get your father. You can’t help and you might get shot for nothing. Luis knows what he is doing. He’s been in really bad situations before.” Josh turns back to the boat. “Kevin steady the wheel so it keeps facing the opposite direction.” At that moment the staccato of automatic fire penetrates the air. I see Luis, Ziva and mom carrying a figure who has to be my father.

Luis voice cackles over the radio. “Josh, get to the wheel. We have to go now.” Josh pulls me up into the boat with him and runs for the wheel. I see another pair of night vision goggles, put them on and scan the perimeter. The four of them are fifty feet from the boat when I see several guards emerging from the tree line firing indiscriminately. I hope my limited training in firearms has taken effect as I start shooting wide of the four who are desperately trying to make the shoreline. I see Luis momentarily flinch as he carries dad and then pick up his pace. More guards are starting to emerge into the distant clearing. Kevin kneels next to me and starts shooting as well. There are flashes of light and smoke everywhere. We have left the halls of science and descended into the seventh circle of hell.

The four of them almost reach the boat, but the guards are starting to close in. All of a sudden Ziva turns around, runs back, fifty feet wide of the boat, and starts shooting. I see Luis struggling to keep my father up and I jump back into the water to help. Luis, mom and I just pick up my father and propel him into the boat. I quickly go up the small ladder and grab Luis’s hand. He is holding fast to mom who is trying to run after Ziva.

“Mom, no!” I reach around to help Luis get my mom on the boat.

“Branna get on the boat. Now! This will get us all killed.” With superhuman effort, Luis picks up mom around the waist, climbs the steps and catapults into the boat. We crash on the bottom of the boat and hit Brad in the melee. I scramble quickly to all fours and look for Ziva. I see Ziva get shot somewhere in the chest area and fall to the ground.

“Ziva is down. I can’t tell how bad.” I shout at Luis. I try to jump off the boat but this time Kevin pins me down.

“We have to get her.” Brad begs incoherently.

“We have no time. We have to leave now.” Luis looks strained.

“Please don’t leave Ziva.” Mom looks devastated.

Luis looks at mom. “I am sorry. Josh, gun it. They are a minute out of getting an accurate shot at us.” As the boat takes off for the opposite shore, I notice that Luis is bleeding profusely from his shoulder. Kevin is also looking at Luis. Luis stumbles to the front of the boat and starts arguing with Josh to get down.

“Kevin, there is a medical bag with bandages. Wrap Luis’ arm.” I look at the other escapees. The nurse is bent over my father.

“Mom. Dad doesn’t look good.” The two of us crawl over to him as we are rocked around on the boat. The clatter of gunfire starts to diminish as Josh drives the boat away. Kevin is struggling with Luis to wrap his upper right arm with the bandage. Brad is peering over the edge at the image of Ziva lying on the coastline. She is almost indistinguishable by now.

The nurse looks up and speaks rapidly. “Matt is losing consciousness. I didn’t even have to call him to sick bay tonight. He was already there when I came on duty. There is a needle mark in his arm. I am not sure what he was given but I suspect it was poison.”

Mom speaks forcefully. “What time did he get it?”

“About two hours ago. When I came in at seven he was screaming at them to stop. Jack was also there for an injection but because Matt was difficult to contain, they never got to him. Sandra Cruz administered the injection. I tried to question her about what they were doing to divert her. I knew after I spoke with Cruz they were targeted for execution. I didn’t think we could pull this off but we had to get them out. I sedated Cruz and another orderly with phenobarbital. The other guard I had to hit over the head right before the power went down.”

“Matt, look at me.” Mom takes a penlight out and shines the light in dad’s eyes.

I grab my father’s left hand. “Dad. It’s me. Analia.” I lean over and look into my father’s eyes.

Dad labors to speak. He spurts out in gasps. “Nali, so glad to see you once more. Two. Of you. Crazy. To do. This”.

“Dad, you’ll be okay.”

“No.” He gasps for air. “I won’t. Branna. Botulinum.”

“Oh god. Please no. Matt, don’t speak.” Mom looks at the nurse. “How far away is a hospital that would have the antitoxin?”

“Over an hour. It wouldn’t work at that point.” The nurse looks devastated.

Mom’s face crumbles. She cradles dad’s head in her hands. “Matt, I am sorry. We should have been here sooner.”

His breathing becomes agonal. In a voice close to a whisper he says. “So proud. My. Girls.”

“Mom, can’t you help him.” I am near hysterics at this point. Mom gives a small shake of her head no. All of a sudden I hear Luis shouting furiously into his radio as he swings the boat north. I look up quickly and see people on the opposite shore. I do a double take. One of them is Jacki. Luis immediately banks left and starts racing north. I turn my head back to my dad.

I put my head close to my father’s head. “Daddy, please don’t die. I just found you. Please. You gave up everything for us.”

Dad speaks his last words with a grimace. “Worth it.” His heads lolls in Branna’s lap.

“No dad. Don’t go. Not now.” Tears are streaming down my face. I lay my head down on my father’s chest. Mom hangs her head in defeat.

A few minutes later, we hit the bank of the river, but Mom and I take no notice. Luis starts barking out orders as Jax and Fox one come running towards us. Josh lifts me up despite my resistance and jumps off the boat with me in his arms. We crash into the shore. Kevin helps Brad and the other detainee, Jack, off the boat. Luis picks mom up around the waist and struggles to get her off the boat. Jax reaches over and takes her from Luis.

“Don’t leave him. Please.” Mom pleads.

“Branna we have less than a minute. I have to blow the boat.” Luis looks drained, but in control.

Jax cradles mom in his arms and carries her to the waiting police van. Fox one jumps onto the boat and starts driving it back towards the opposite shore. I watch as he dives off the boat after thirty seconds. Josh pulls me into the police van and has me sit next to mom who is slumped against the side of the van. It looks like Jax is trying to put a jacket on her.

Luis starts handing out uniforms. “Everyone put these on. Helmet gear as well. If we get stopped, pull the gear over your faces. Hopefully the chaos will prevent a positive identification. All of a sudden, Fox one jumps into the front of the van and starts running the siren. I watch as Josh, Kevin and the nurse quickly change and put their clothes into a bag. The rest of us sit there in varying stages of shock. Josh and Jax try to encourage us to move faster. I know if we don’t get it together, we’ll be caught. I just can’t follow simple commands.

“Why is he running the siren?” Kevin asks excitedly.

Jax speaks up. “We are blending into the law enforcement circus descending on the area. Branna, look at me. You have to pull it together. I am so sorry about what happened. But the next ten minutes are crucial. Get dressed.”

Mom doesn’t look like she comprehended what he said, but she starts buttoning up her jacket. Meanwhile, Josh is dressing me at this point. I am still numb with shock.

“Nali, you can do this as well. Look at me.”

“My father and Ziva are dead.” I don’t recognize my voice. I sound like I am under water.

“Well we don’t know about Ziva, but most likely yes. We have to focus on not winding up the same way now. Just throw the pants on. I am with you Nali.” After I struggle to get the pants on, Josh puts shoes on my feet.

Fox 1 starts putting assault weapons into each of our hands and shows us how to hold them. He starts giving a crash course on how to look like a swat team. He whispers furiously at Luis that we likely will not be able to stand up to prolonged scrutiny. All of a sudden, we hear an explosion in the distance.

“What was that?” The nurse yells.

“We blew the boat on the opposite side of the river. Hopefully that will give us extra time.”

I look at mom. “Dad?”

Mom seems to be becoming more focused. “Don’t think about it honey. Just concentrate on getting through the next few hours.”

Luis whispers back. “Heads up. We have a roadblock. Stay in position.” I notice in a daze that Fox one has his flashlight out as if he is searching the area. I grab hold of Josh’s back on my right as I hold the gun in my left hand.

Luis pulls up to a series of police cars on the road. One of the policeman approaches Luis’s side of the car. “ Do you know what just happened?” He asks while pointing in the direction of the explosion. “Just arrived on scene. We were instructed to cover this side of the river.”

’We’ve been instructed to wait here as well. Sounds like the action is on the other side of the river.”

“I think you’re right. We were instructed to look for escaped inmates in green jumpsuits from Rosewood, a nurse plus faceless accomplices. We have the mug shots of the detainees but I’m guessing they ditched the jumpsuits. You have any additional information?”

“Not much more than that. We got descriptions of possible accomplices to be on the lookout for. We heard one of them was captured down river.

“Can I see those?”

The officer hands a sheaf of papers to Luis who looks at them quickly. He hands the papers back to the officer.

“Thanks for the assistance. Until we hear otherwise, we’ll just follow orders, cruise up river and secure the area.”

“Roger that.”

Luis pulls away at a moderate clip. The whole van collectively lets out a breath of air. Luis keeps his pace as Fox one searches the riverbank with a flashlight. Analia realizes that both Luis and Fox 1 are wearing incredibly realistic, face masks.

“I wish we could gun it the hell out of here.” Jax says quietly.

“Can’t risk it. We have another ten minutes before we can disappear down a rarely used road.” Fox one responds.

“Luis, who among us were on those sheets you looked at?” Mom asks quietly.

“You, Jax, Analia and Ziva. They are probably checking the whereabouts of Josh and Kevin now. If we can make it to the farmhouse and exchange vehicles, we should make it to Canada within a few hours.”

“Are we all getting on the plane together?” Kevin asks.

“I want to put all of you on the plane except Senator Rosner and Nancy. I have Brad’s fake passport. We have a bunker for them in Canada. We want to take their depositions. If we have trouble boarding the plane in Canada, we’ll take you there temporarily and figure the rest out later. Although, it would be better to get you to Brazil immediately.”

“Do you think we’ll get through airport screening, even in Canada?”

“You’re going on a private plane and the manifest log is only for Josh and Kevin. Analia is on the manifest under the name on her fake passport. They haven’t started looking for Josh yet. If we can, I am going to have Josh call his father at home. I can reroute the signal to come from a cell tower in Mantoloking. That should strengthen his cover. I’m sneaking the rest of you on with the luggage. One of our guys works the ground crew and is waiting for us.”

“Luis, he said they captured one of us. Does that mean Ziva is still alive?” Branna is speaking and sounds drained but normal.

“That’s my guess. I will learn more by tomorrow. If she is alive, I’ll hear about it. It will be a bumpy ride in a minute.”

Analia hears Brad whisper. “Thank god.”

Luis takes a turn onto a dirt road and Fox 1 turns off his flashlight. Luis turns the lights on the vehicle to low and puts on his night vision scope. Mom scoots over to sit on my left and takes my hand. Luis was right. We are getting bumped around like bowling pins. I start to analyze the new faces in the group.

“You okay honey?” Mom whispers.

My voice breaks. “Dad didn’t make it.”

Mom pulls me into a hug. “Nancy just told me that dad has been sick. This might have been a blessing. It looked like he had leukemia but they never bothered to diagnose or treat him. He made the effort to see us one last time. He had peace at the end. ”

“Poor dad. Did he suffer?” My eyes mist over as I lay my head on my mother’s shoulder.

“He was sleeping all the time. Hopefully, he wasn’t in too much pain.”

“Analia, I am so sorry.” Josh whispers as he squeezes my hand.

Just then, the van stops. Luis orders us into the house to change in five minutes. He takes our discarded clothes and uniforms and disappears down a trap door to hide them in an underground cellar. When we leave through the front door, we are greeted by a waste recycling truck.

Kevin’s mouth drops open. “Seriously? We have to get in that?”

“It’s been sanitized Kevin and will not attract unwanted attention. It is too much of a risk to continue in the police van.” Luis points to an unidentified man in the corner. “My man over there is going to take it back to our garage. Everybody climb in.”

The inside of the truck is clean but an odor remains. I decide to ignore it. We sit in stunned silence for the next several hours. I huddle between mom and Josh as the temperature continues to drop as we approach the Canadian border. Fortunately, Luis had his friend at the farmhouse prepare hot coffee in a thermos and that helps mitigate the deep chill. No one stops us on our run to the border.

The truck comes to an abrupt stop. I feel stiff all over as I climb down with the assistance of Fox one. I wonder if I will ever learn his real name one day. Luis quickly directs us to start walking towards the shoreline as the truck continues its’ path northeast. As we walk, Luis explains that he had two members of his team meet us and continue driving the truck. Luis also learned that a wide dragnet has been established across the state of New York and questions were raised about the police van we were driving but his team had managed to sequester the van in one of the underground’s garages without detection. Luis also learned that Ziva is undergoing surgery while in custody. Fortunately, the actual state police had arrived on scene and had taken her to the hospital; otherwise she likely would have been allowed to die if it was up to the Rosewood administration and their guards. Luis also informed us there was a media firestorm brewing as his team had started to digitally release information about the unlawful imprisonment of detainees at Rosewood.

“My mother must be insane at this point. Any word on airport closures?” Josh asks.

“So far they have closed all New York airports. The big question is how did they know about tonight?”

I pipe up. “It might have been either mine, Josh or Kevin’s phone. I almost forgot. When we crossed the river again, I saw Jacki on the shoreline. She is another member of our lab group. We had always thought that Marcus was the mole.”

“What! Son of a bitch.” Josh exclaims.

“I couldn’t believe it, but it makes perfect sense. Marcus was so openly antagonistic, there was no way we would get close to him.”

“Someone should warn Art Morehouse.” Jax speaks.

“Art already had suspicions about her.” Mom murmurs.

Before anybody can say another word, Luis’s phone rings and he takes the call. He turns abruptly towards us. “We have to double time it. That was the captain. He is fifteen minutes out. We have to be ready. He already noted an increased police presence on the water. Fortunately, the Canadian police are not yet involved. Josh, you assist Jack while I take Brad. We need to make the shoreline now.” Luis turns to Fox 1 and instructs him to go ahead to the shoreline and scout the area.

Luis struggles to keep Brad upright and moving forward. Kevin gets on the other side of Brad to assist Luis. I realize Luis must be in amazing shape given his shoulder injury. Then again, we are all running on adrenaline and we still have to make it to the plane. I go to assist Josh in keeping the senator upright and walking. No one talks as we struggle to the shoreline.

Fox 1 is in communication with the fishing trawler when we reach the tree line on the shore. He has a collapsible dinghy waiting when we arrive. He turns to Luis quickly.

“This will be a tough squeeze. A police boat just passed going northeast. According to the captain’s sonar, another boat is heading towards here on a southwest trajectory. It is twenty minutes out. We either go now or risk waiting for God knows how long.”

“Let’s go now. They will only increase the police presence up here.”

Fox 1 holds the dinghy in the water. My legs feel rubbery; I can only imagine how the two detainees feel. Josh basically picks up Jack and places him in the dinghy while my mom and Kevin help Brad in. Luis looks like his shoulder injury is finally slowing him down. I go to help him but he shrugs me off.

Fortunately, the dinghy has an outboard motor. Luis looks like he is in extreme pain and Jack and Brad are exhausted. We don’t have much reserve left. Within a few minutes, we approach the fishing trawler. The captain quickly throws over a makeshift rope ladder. Fox 1 scrambles up and throws over a rope with a harness. Jax instructs mom, Nancy and me to climb up the rope and then orders Luis to either get up the ladder or be hoisted up by the harness. Luis opts for the ladder and Kevin goes up behind him to keep him steady.

The captain’s assistant yells out that another boat is approaching and will be within sight in ten minutes. Jax and Josh place Jack in the harness and Fox 1 and the captain pull him up. Just then Brad attempts to climb up the ladder and falls into the river. The river is freezing and Brad immediately begins to flail. Josh dives in after him and hoists him over the dinghy. Fox 1 immediately sends the harness back over for Brad and Jax quickly harnesses him. We all yank hard on the rope and Jax helps Josh grab onto the rope ladder and then attaches the hook on the harness to the dinghy before scrambling up the ladder.

Luis quickly urges us to go down to the kitchen galley and get out of sight. Jax and Kevin have to carry Brad down. Nancy, mom and I hold up Jack as he stumbles down the steps. Luis and Josh bring up the rear. I have no idea how we will get off this boat if Brad and Jack remain incapacitated like this. I look around the kitchen galley and spot instant chicken broth. I heat water and make the broth. I find a bottle of Scotch and pour it into several plastic cups. Hopefully this will revive them. As I pass around the broth and the Scotch, Luis blesses me when I hand him the Scotch. All of a sudden we hear a bullhorn announcing they are the Canadian police. All of us freeze mid movement. Obviously, the Canadians are now involved.

We hear the captain conversing with one of the officers. He tells them he saw an unmanned dinghy floating down the river. I look at Luis but he just shakes his head and holds a finger to his mouth. I send up a prayer that the police don’t board the trawler. After five minutes, we hear the captain assure the police he will keep an eye out for anything suspicious. A minute later Fox 1, dressed in fisherman clothes, comes down into the galley.

“We’re good for now. We said we saw a dinghy floating south and we heard the police captain send the other police boats towards that area.” Fox 1 reports.

“How soon will we reach the Canadian shoreline?” Jax asks.

“In 15 minutes. We are dropping most of you off on the shoreline. Nancy and Jack will remain on the boat and disembark at the dock.”

“Are we splitting up already?” Mom asks Luis.

“Yes. We already have disguises on the boat for Jack and Nancy. It is better if all of you are not seen together. We have a team on the shoreline with a van to take us to the airport.”

“Where am I going?” Brad asks feebly.

“You are going to Brazil.” Luis stops talking for a minute and takes a phone call. His words are terse and minimal.

“What is it?” Josh asks.

“They have already gone to check your apartment. I had two agents posing as you and Analia in your bed. When they tried to break into the apartment, my agents chased them away. It should help to throw them off your trail. I pulled the same ruse up at the bed and breakfast where Jax and Branna were supposed to stay. Hopefully it will buy us some much needed time.”

“Is the plane ready to leave?” Mom asks.

“It arrived thirty minutes ago.” Luis stops talking when Fox one signals that it is time to go. “Okay. Jack and Nancy, wait down here. We have to go now.”

Jack whispers. “Thank you all so much for what you did. I am so sorry about Matthew. One day, I would like to repay you.”

We each say our individual goodbyes quickly. Brad tries to argue with Luis that he wants to stay in Canada, but Luis says it is not possible. Luis wants to separate Brad from Jack to decrease the chance of identification. If both Brad and Jack were to be seen disembarking from the trawler, it would be disastrous. Luis however promises to make Ziva his top priority in the congressional investigation, that will start Monday. Both Josh and I do a double take when we hear that information but Luis shakes his head and says later. Mom takes Brad by the hand and tries to console him as we head back up the galley steps.

Our next surprise is finding that we have to swim to shore. Fortunately it is a short distance but the water is near freezing. Fox one apologizes but they had to puncture the dinghy to collapse it in a hurry. He asks the captain to get as close to the shore as possible. Luis reassures us that his other men are waiting with a van and blankets. Luis appears to be revived from the scotch and broth but he is still a bit pale. I worry about him and Brad making the swim. Fox one checks the sonar radar with the captain before instructing us to go down the rope ladder. One day, I hope to retell the tale of this day to my kids. I just hope we survive to tell it.

Mom, Kevin and I quickly scramble down. Hailing from the west coast, we are already familiar with cold-water temperatures, but it is still a bit of a shock when we hit the water. I look back as I start swimming and see Josh hit the water and then Luis. Brad falls off the ladder again and Josh puts him into a lifeguard carry and starts swimming to shore. I swim back to them and assist Josh in keeping Brad’s body afloat. After ten minutes, assistance comes from the shoreline. Another member of Luis’s team tells us to keep going to shore and takes over swimming with Brad. Josh and I have a difficult time keeping up with her. I see Luis is struggling as well but we’re only a few hundred yards from shore. Josh and I swim on either side of Luis. And we are on the shoreline within a few minutes. Two additional members from the security team throw blankets around us and hustle us into the van. One of them goes back and fireman carries Brad the rest of the way in.

We all sit there in exhaustion for the first few minutes and then are given clothes to change into. I’m not sure I have the energy to protect my modesty at this point. I look at mom who has a flask in her hand and is pouring shots for all of us.

“Here. Drink it fast to warm up. We’ll be at the airport in twenty to thirty minutes.” This day is becoming more surreal.

“Luis, do we have to walk through the airport?” I ask.

“You, Josh and Kevin will be going through. As of now, you are not on an international watch list according to someone monitoring this in real time. I’ll be alerted if that changes. Plus, you three have fake passports. I will be walking through with you.”

“What about us?” Jax asks.

“You and Branna were put on a watch list two hours ago. Brad has been on one since last night. That’s why you are wearing flight crew gear. We are taking you through as private attendants. Branna put the wig on. It will match your I.D. Jax put on the glasses. One of our people is working the ground crew, he is going to walk the three of you through. There will be much less scrutiny.”

Luis talks to each of us individually with a few last minute instructions. We stop in long-term parking and Jax, Brad and mom board another van. I grab mom’s hand briefly as she gets out and stare after her, as they drive away. I tell myself I’ll be seeing her soon.

Ten minutes later we arrive at the hangar for private planes. Josh, Kevin and I get out with the luggage Luis assigned to us. Luis is now in a livery uniform and carries our bags to the waiting area as his assistant parks the car.

We walk to the private waiting area and sit for several minutes. I’m pretty sure I sit the whole time holding my breath. I don’t see an increase in police activity or my mother in handcuffs, which is reassuring. Finally the pilot comes out to greet us and escort us to the plane. We quickly say goodbye to Luis. I whisper my gratitude to him. I hear him tell Josh he will call with an update after we land. As we enter the cabin of the plane, I see Jax, Brad and mom milling around the back of the plane. I resist the urge to run up to my mother and hug her until we are off the ground. We take our seats and wait in an eerie silence. Fifteen, interminable minutes later, we finally line up in the cue for takeoff. I am squeezing Josh’s hand so hard it blanches white. When we finally are up in the air and over the Atlantic ocean. I see Jax pop champagne while mom runs up and hugs me. Tears are pouring out of both our eyes. I hug all of them. It is over, for now.

When we finally sit back down to watch a movie, Josh leans over and kisses me.

“Are you ready for our next adventure?”

“As long as it is with you and the rest of the people on this plane, I am up for anything.” I lean over, kiss him and close my eyes.

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